Synology DS220+ Review: Slightly Underwhelming but Still Excellent

Synology DS220 NAS Server 20
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The DS220+ is the latest dual-bay NAS server from Synology.

Chronologically, the DiskStation DS220+ — one of the four new servers Synology announced today — is the defacto upgrade to the previous model, the DS218+, that came out some two years ago. In reality, it’s more of a variant. Indeed, the two have more in common than they do in differences.

Here’s lowdown on this new DS220+ server: If you’re looking for a robust dual-bay server that has the option of hosting up to another five drives via an extension unit, the DS218+ is still an excellent choice today.

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On the other hand, if you know that you’ll be happy with just two internal drives, the DS220+ does have some extras to make it worth your while. At $300 (diskless), this server is also is a steal, considering the amount of fun and productivity it has to offer.

Synology DiskStation DS220+ NAS Server

8.8

Performance

8.5/10

Features

9.5/10

Design and Setup

8.5/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Fast and reliable performance
  • Robust operating system with tons of useful home and business applications, including virtualization
  • Straightforward setup process and easy to use
  • Btrfs file system support with advance shadow backups and replication
  • Link Aggregation
  • Quiet operator

Cons

  • No eSATA port for drive bay expansion
  • Memory maxes out at 6 GB
  • No multi-gig or NVMe caching options
  • Only two camera licenses included

Synology DS220+: A more powerful server with less

Out of the box, the DS220+ looks the same as its older cousin, the DS218+. The two share the same physical size, drive bay design, and weight. Even their ventilation fan and the bulky power adapters are the same.

Both are dual-bay servers — they can hold two standard SATA internal drives right out of the box. Both have a face-plate on the front that covers the drive bays. This face-plate a bit loose — it can fall out relatively easily. Not a huge deal, you just need to make sure you press it on the server firmly.

Link Aggregation in, eSATA out

On the back, though, you’ll see a couple of significant differences. The DS220+ comes with two Gigabit LAN ports, just one USB 3.2 Gen 1 port, and now no longer has an eSATA port. And that implies a couple of things:

  • You cannot expand this new NAS server’s storage space via an expansion unit. It’s the first server in the Plus family that doesn’t have this capability.
  • The DS220+ now supports Link Aggregation, which the DS218+ doesn’t, allowing users to combine its two LAN ports into a single 2 Gbps connection.

I’d value Link Aggregation more than the ability to host more drives via an expansion. Of many dual-bays servers I’ve used in the past decade, none has made me need the expansion. Also, if I need to use more discs, I’d get a four-bay or even a 6-bay server instead.

Synology DS220 NAS Server 3
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech Note how the Synology DS220+ no longer has an eSATA port.

That said, dual-bay servers fit the sweet spot where you have a great balance of data security (via RAID 1 or SHR) and cost. Furthermore, hard drives, and SSDs, being affordably available at extremely high capacities, the chance you need more drives is rather slim.

That’s especially true, considering you can quickly scale up a Synology server’s storage without having to rebuild it from scratch, thanks to Synology’s SHR RAID.

Synology DS220+ vs. DS218+: Hardware specifications

On the inside, the new DS220+ server now sports a more powerful processor, compared to the DS218+. However, it still comes with a measly 2 GB of RAM which is soldered on its motherboard.

There’s one free RAM slot to host one more stick of up to 4 GB. So its system memory also caps at 6 GB, which is a bit disappointing. Like the DS218+, the DS220+ support 4K transcoding, the faster CPU clock speeds mean it’ll be able to do that slightly better than its older cousin.

By the way, of the four new 2020 servers, the DS220+ is the only one that doesn’t have an NVMe slot for caching.

Synology DS220+’s detail photos

Synology DS220 NAS Server 19
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The Synology DiskStation DS220+’s retail box

Synology DS220 NAS Server 4
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech Out of the box, the DS220+ looks strikingly similar to the DS218+

Synology DS220 NAS Server 17
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech Per Synology’s naming convention, DS220+ means: A dual-bay DiskStation server in the Plus family released in 2020.

Synology DS220 NAS Server 16
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The server has an array of status lights and another USB 3.2 Gen 1 port on the front. This port works with the Copy button to quickly backup a thumb drive’s content onto the server’s internal storage.

Synology DS220 NAS Server 6
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The DS220+ looks like most other Synology server from the right side.

Synology DS220 NAS Server 5
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech As well as the left side.

Synology DS220 NAS Server 14
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The Synology DS220+’s familiar-looking backside with the standard user-replaceable fan.

Synology DS220 NAS Server 18
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The DS220+ comes with a relatively bulky external power adapter.

Standard setup process

The DS220+ uses the same operating DiskStation Manager (DSM) operating system, which is currently at its 6th revision. Like the case of most existing servers, as old as 2013 models, it will also support the upcoming DSM 7.0.

That said, it shares the same setup process as any Synology server.

Tool-free hardware installation

To use the server, you need at least one SATA drive, though it’s recommended that you use two for redundancy. The server can work with standard SATA internal drives of 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch (drive bay bracket required) designs.

In either case, installing the drive into the server is a walk in the park. You can do that entirely without tools, as shown in the pictures below.

Synology DS220 NAS Server 12
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech First remove the Synology DS220+’s face plate to get to its two drive trays. Just peel it off.

Synology DS220 NAS Server 13
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech You then can you can pull each tray relatively easily while pressing its top latch up.

Synology DS220 NAS Server 21
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech Now place the hard drive onto the tray. Note the two latches that will hold the drive in place.

Synology DS220 NAS Server 8
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech You can just press the latches, one at a time on the side of the drive tray. Thanks to the design, there’s no mistake to make here.

Synology DS220 NAS Server 10
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech Finally you can easily insert the tray, with a drive attached, into the server.

And that’s it. You can repeat the process with the second hard drive and mission completed. Now plug the server into the network using the included network cables, and you can start installing the OS on it.

Note that you only need to use one network port for the server to work. However, when using both at the same time, you have the option of using Link Aggregation if the switch or router also support this feature.

Easy software installation

Putting the software on the server is also easy. All you need is the Synology Assistant software, which will detect the server and help you install the operating system directly from Synology’s server.

In my testing, everything worked exactly the same as I had described in this overall piece on the Synology NAS server.

The whole process took me less than 15 minutes via my modest broadband connection. Alternatively, you can also copy the OS data file on to a computer and upload it to the server if you want to use it in an off-line environment.

Btrfs support, applications galore

Like most Synology NAS server released in the past couple of years — with the excepting of the sole DS419slim — the DS220+ supports the latest Btrfs file system for Linux.

As a result, among other things, it can use shadow copies to keep data it stores safe from ransomware attacks, as well as accidental deletion or edits. But, as part of the Synology ecosystem, the DS220+ can do a lot more than that.

In all, the server comes with some 60 additional Synology applications and about the same amount of third-party ones that you can add/remove via the Package Center. Each of these apps further extends the server’s capability, making its potential almost endless.

DS220 Apps
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech Here’s the list of some popular apps you can use with the Synology DS220+.

It’s important to note that most of these apps are also available to all other Synology NAS servers. Below is the list of my favorites.

Synology core-applications

  • Synology Chat: This app is a Slack-like chat system that includes a back-end server and front end applications. It works exceptionally well as a collaboration tool for a small office.
  • Download Station: This is a well-designed self-download app that can take care of downloading files from any sources. It also has a powerful torrent search engine.
  • Cloud Station Server: This is a must-have app. It turns the server into a personal cloud and allows you to sync and back up data between and of multiple devices. It’s like Dropbox, but much better.
  • Snapshot Replication: This app includes the shadow copy backup and replication functions. The former can automatically save a version of the data based on a schedule, allowing you to restore it to a point in the past. The latter can automatically replicate the data in real-time to a different location, such as an external drive. The two keep data safe even when it’s accidentally deleted, damaged, or altered.
  • Hyper Backup: This is a versatile backup app that can automatically backups files stored on the server to multiple types of destinations, including a host of online storage services — Google Drive, Amazon Drive, and Microsoft Azure, to name a few.
  • Surveillance Station: This app turns the server into a comprehensive surveillance system when coupled with supported IP cameras. Note, though, that the server can handle up to 25 cameras but includes only two camera licenses, and additional licenses cost some $60 each. If you can stomach that, this app is so cool; it deserves a separate review.
  • Video Station: If you have a personal collection of movies or TV shows, this app will turn your NAS into a private Netflix-like streaming server. Alternatively, you can also use Plex or Media Server apps. By the way, in my testing, the DS220+ could handle 4K transcoding.
  • Virtual Machine Manager: This apps allows for creating multiple virtual environments for you to run other “machines,” like Windows 10 computer or Linux computers, within the NAS server. It’s incredibly valuable when you don’t want to spend money on the real hardware.

Of course, there are a lot more apps, but depending on your situation, you only need so many. And no NAS serve can run all apps available to it. By the way, the apps above are all well-developed and have in-depth functionality. Each deserves a review of its own.

DS220 Interface
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The DS220+ uses the same Linux-based DSM OS and web interface as the rest of Synology NAS servers.

Synology DiskStation DS220+: Fast and reliable performance

At publication, I have used the DS220+ for more than two weeks and been happy with it. It wasn’t the fastest NAS server I’ve worked with, and it didn’t have everything, but still, it delivered.

I tested it using the stock hardware specification, without upgrading the RAM or using SSDs, and the performance with two 8 TB Seagate IronWolf NAS drives with it, was what I had expected.

Synology DS220 Performance Chart
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

It’s important to note that, without a multi-gig port, the DS220+’s throughput speeds are limited by its Gigabit network ports, and the internal drives. And for the most part, the fastest speeds you get from it will be that of a Gigabit connection.

And that was the case in my testing. No matter what RAID configuration I used, be it RAID 1, RAID 0, or SHR, the server delivered around 110 MB/s.

Interestingly, even when I used it with Link Aggregation and a multi-gig connection, there was still virtually no improvement in throughput speeds. So it seems that was the speed of the internal drives themselves.



Conclusion

The Synology DiskStation DS220+ is not a must-have. While it has some extras over the previous version, the DS218+, it’s not entirely better — the lack of the eSATA port is an example. In other words, it doesn’t qualify as an upgrade.

However, if you’re in the market for a dual-bay robust network storage machine, this server still makes an excellent buy. You’ll highly likely be happy with your purchase.

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